He Headed Straight Across Town

DSCN6128.JPGcopoftheweek_logo.jpgOh no. Not another fence.

Rob Levy had just jumped two fences. He was chasing a skinny kid less than half his age, an 18-year-old nicknamed “Mally.” Now Mally was hopping a third chain-link divider. This one was 10 feet high.

After 17 years on the beat, Levy was still finding himself running after kids and climbing fences. It hasn’t gotten easier.

Minutes before, Levy had been at his assigned perch across across town. His shift was ending in ten minutes. He thought he was done.

Then the call came on the radio: Farren and Fulton. Gunfire. Units needed.

No one else was responding. So Levy responded. He was on his way.

He usually is. “I just do it,” he said. “Your badge says, ‘New Haven.’”

Crosstown Traveler

Late Wednesday afternoon, Rob Levy will head to the east side of town again. This time it’s a scheduled stop, at Anthony’s Ocean View. The Rotary Club is giving Levy its Officer of the Year Award.

That foot chase pursuing Mally over three fences last week—which ended in an arrest of the alleged shooter—reflects how Levy came to win the award.

It also partly explains another milestone, one for which he receives awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving: For three straight years he took the most drunk drivers off the road. No one else came close.

Hard work earns Levy those awards. So does a willingness to drop what he’s doing to answer a call outside his district.

Officer DUI

DSCN6142.JPGLevy, a beat cop in Dixwell, has often been the first officer colleagues call to conduct a test of a suspected drunk or stoned driver.

That’s because of his training, and his record. First he took a short course on the subject at the police department. Then in December of 2005 the department sent him to a 40-hour DUI (driving under the influence) detection course at a training academy in Meriden.

In 2006 and 2007, while he was working the overnight shift in Dixwell, he was regularly assigned to two-officer teams conducting DUI stops. He had a knack for making good stops. In 2006 he made 150 DUI arrests; in 2007, 130.

“I think the next highest person is 30 to 40 a year,” observed Lt. Joe Witkowski, a traffic enforcement supervisor. He called Levy “well-trained” and “thorough.”

“He’s quite proactive,” said top Dixwell cop Lt. Anthony Duff, who nominated Levy for the Rotary award.

On some of those late-night DUI details, Levy was paired with an officer named Elizabeth Mazza. They liked working together. They liked each other, period. They now share a home in Middletown, where they raise four teenagers from previous relationships.

Those kids keep them busy. Levy and Mazza decided that at least one of them needed to be home at night. Now Levy works days, a time when the department doesn’t set up DUI checkpoints.

And yet ... he’s still making the most drunken driving arrests in the department. He has made 35 so far this year. Some still come from nighttime checkpoints Levy helps man on extra shifts. But more than half have come during the day, he said. Officers in other parts of town call him when they need an experienced hand to conduct a thorough test of a possibly inebriated driver. They know Levy is happy to head out to another district.

The way he picked up the call last week and ended up climbing fences after Mally.

Three Fences

The call came around 2:50 p.m, on the Saturday of Halloween. A woman phoned the cops to say she’d seen a man shoot into a crowd at the corner of Farren Avenue and Fulton Street in the Annex neighborhood. She was following the gunman in her car and staying on the phone with the cops.

Levy, who was outside the old Q House on Dixwell Avenue when the call came over the police radio, thought for a moment about how to get through mid-day traffic. He decided to turn down Dwight, to South Frontage, to I-95.

As he arrived on Quinnipiac Avenue, he heard a report that the suspected gunman was heading toward East Grand Avenue, on bicycle. Levy headed there too.

He arrived at Grand and Clinton to find another officer, Sgt. Eduardo Diaz, closing in on the bike-riding gunman.

Diaz jumped out of the car. The young man turned away. He pulled out a gun. Diaz ordered him to drop it. He did, and ran.

Diaz stayed with the gun. Levy jumped out of the car and started running.

“Levy!” Diaz yelled. “He’s got a gun!”

Levy recognized the young man from Dixwell. The man, who’s 18, goes by the nicknames “Mally” and “Mally Jones,” a riff on Jamal, his first name. Levy said he encounters the young man getting involved in group fights with people from other neighborhoods. Mally knows Levy, too, by name.

Mally headed to the old Tee-Off (now “Grand”) Cafe then jumped over some bushes near a Chinese restaurant in the same plaza. Levy followed.

Mally climbed up a six-foot fence.

“Here we go,” Levy thought to himself. “I don’t want to do this!” At 42, he’s older and nowhere as nimble as the 130-pound Mally. His left knee doesn’t work as well as it once did, not after five surgeries caused by chasing kids like Mally.

Levy climbed anyway. That’s part of the job.

Mally kept running. Levy managed to keep him in sight. He saw Mally climb a second fence. This one was just four feet high. Levy went over that one, too, and kept chasing.

Mally raced across an open field toward Fair Haven School. Mally was up in the air again—climbing and then stepping over the top of a 10-foot fence.

“Stop or I’ll tase you!” Levy called.

“Don’t shoot me, Levy!” responded Mally. “I dropped the gun!”

Levy noticed someone else: On the other side of the fence stood Officer Carlos Ortiz, waiting.

Levy wasn’t going to have to climb this fence. He had time to walk around it as Ortiz ordered Mally down.

The officers handcuffed Mally. They also recovered the .22 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol he had ditched on Grand Avenue.

Levy’s shift was finally over. But he wasn’t done for the day. He’d signed up for an extra shift. It would begin at 5, in less than two hours.

Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:

Shafiq Abdussabur
Maneet Bhagtana
Scott Branfuhr
Dennis Burgh
Sydney Collier
David Coppola
Joe Dease
Brian Donnelly
Anthony Duff
Bertram Etienne
Paul Finch
Jeffrey Fletcher
Renee Forte
William Gargone & Mike Torre
Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
Dan Hartnett
Ray Hassett
Robin Higgins
Ronnell Higgins
Racheal Inconiglios
Hilda Kilpatrick
Anthony Maio
Steve McMorris
Stephanie Redding
Tony Reyes
Luis & David Rivera
Salvador Rodriguez
Brett Runlett
David Runlett
Marcus Tavares
Martin Tchakirides
Stephan Torquati
Kelly Turner
John Velleca
Alan Wenk
Michael Wuchek
David Zannelli
David Zaweski

(To suggest an officer to be featured, contact us here.)

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posted by: HewNaven?? on November 11, 2009  1:01pm

Cop of the Year?! This guy should get Cop of the Century! Just kidding. Congratulations to Levy.

Isn’t it telling though that he is awarded for what most of the public believes to be “routine” police work. Responding to calls outside his jurisdiction, chasing criminals, catching drunk drivers. Isn’t that what cops are paid to do? Maybe, to be fair, we should start recognizing the bad cops too.

How about a worst cop designation awarded to the officer who ignores the most calls, and is most likely to violate a citizen’s civil liberties?

posted by: DB on November 11, 2009  3:06pm

Amazing job New Haven Police Department and officer Levy!  I was there in Fair Haven for what was apparently the middle of this chase and was very impressed with the energy and responsiveness of the three officers that I saw.  Over the last year or so I’ve gotten to see a lot of changes in how the police in New Haven are working harder than ever to combat our city’s crime.  I feel safer here and am very proud of my city and it’s officers.  Thank you.

posted by: denzien on November 11, 2009  3:19pm

Nice work. 

This town is like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.

posted by: Bugupit on November 11, 2009  6:34pm

Smith and Wesson, Smith and Wesson, Smith and Wesson… for weeks now, I have noticed NHI reporting this brand being seized by NHPD. Six or eight cited, perhaps.  What’s up?  Did they fall off the truck?  Are they sold at local discount stores?  Hopefully soon we will read about the illegal supplier getting busted.

posted by: Bugupit on November 11, 2009  6:35pm

Officer Levy, glad you are safe. ...

posted by: m on November 11, 2009  9:24pm

You rock, Officer Levy! I live in Fair Haven, and am glad there is someone like you coming over here to help us. You are a great example to follow - someone who takes pride in his/her job, and works hard to do as well as possible. I see so little of this every day in much less important and dangerous and difficult work environments - shops, restaurants, offices.
I also appreciate your DUI prowess - I am terrified of drunk and high drivers here - there must be more than I can even imagine out on the road.

posted by: streever on November 11, 2009  9:52pm

nice work levy! Congratulations on your award—and your successful partnership in life.

posted by: 59999412388 on November 11, 2009  10:36pm

I am sure I am not alone in finding this left-wing, pro-union, pro-State, pro-cop stuff annoying.  “Your badge says, ‘New Haven’”?  No…

posted by: Levy for Mayor!!! on November 12, 2009  12:06am

This kid,Levy,Is a cop from when cops were cops.Levy is a borderline superhero of a cop who does his job and other officers jobs.Levy looks good in that picture, almost like he’s doing the Texas two step. Keep up the good work, Rob

posted by: Lt. John Velleca on November 12, 2009  8:31am

I’ve worked with Rob Levy for many years and believe this recogition was long overdue.  Rob has always worked very hard, but many times the accomplishments of our C-Squad (midnight shift) officers get overlooked because we forget about them.  Congratulations Rob!

posted by: Bluetrue on November 13, 2009  10:27am

59999412388 - stop being such a hater.  Landwise, the City of New Haven is very big.  And pretty well staffed.  He responded from across town when others, who were closer, could have.  Give the man a little credit and keep your negativity to yourself!